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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

HISTORt   AND    HUMAN   RELATIONS

men have perhaps been devastated as by a flash of
lightning* There is much of what we might call the
broken crockery of human nature, where sometimes the
fractures and deformities mark the effects of a not quite
successful struggle with heredity and environment.
Human beings are responsible at some point for the use
which they make of die materials at their disposal—
otherwise there is no sense in a discussion of moral
judgments at all. But genuine ultimate assessments of
worthiness are beyond the power of our mathematics to
calculate. , It is well that the ordinary verdicts of the
world should be quasi-aesthetic ones and that we should
realise them to be such.

Now the limitation of the historian, when he passes
verdict on personalities, is that he is so liable to be
satisfied in a similar way with the kind of judgment that
is much less truly ethical than it pretends to be. Much
of the benefit which is supposed to result from the whole
practice is nullified by die deplorable fact that the moral
judgments of historians are so often taken at a low
level; we might even say that these things are almost
invariably more rough-and-ready than anything else in
the whole complicated fabric of historical writing. In
reality they are pseudo-moral judgments, masquerading
as moral ones—mixed and muddy affairs, part prejudice,
part political animosity—with a dash of ethical, flavouring
wildly tossed into the concoction. They come blithely
from impetuous adjudicators who have a rough idea of
Henty heroes shining brightly against the background of
something which is not cricket. Against such purveyors
of rough justice Acton wrote much of his argument on

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